Share via Whatsapp




Early Political Organizations In Kenya Upto 1939

African participation in the First World War contributed to rapid political developments in Kenya in the following ways;

  1. When many African from different communities and countries met, they realized that they shared numerous interests and problems which necessitated political unity.
  2. The Africans’ disapproval of the Whiteman’s immortality during the war, as he could also get wounded, die and suffer like them. This motivated them to strive for equal rights when they came back.
  3. The introduction of many unfair measures after the war made their lives difficult. For example, governor Northey introduced the Soldier settlement scheme in 1919 to settle British ex-soldiers while African ex-soldiers got a raw deal.

Other Factors for the Rise of Early Political Organizations included;

  1. The introduction of the Kipande system in 1920 which was used to force Africans to provide labour for the European settlers.
  2. The replacement of the Indian Rupee with the shilling in 1921 meant that those in possession of the rupee had valueless money at a short notice.
  3. The reduction of African wages and the increase in hut tax and poll tax in 1920 from 10 to 16 shillings.
  4. The change of status of Kenya from a protectorate to a colony in 1920 which d awned on the Africans that the Whiteman was here to stay unless this move was fought.

Kikuyu Association

This was the first political organization in Kenya. It was founded in 1920 by Loyalist Kikuyu chiefs, concerned about the continued grabbing of African land for European settlement.

They also complained about the planned reduction of African wages after the replacement of the rupee with the shilling, the kipande system which they equated to slavery.

The patron was Paramount Chief Kinyanjui wa Gathirimu and Chief Koinange wa Mbiyu was the president. The secretary was I.M.Ishmael. Other members were Josiah Njonjo, Philip Karanja, Mathew Njoroge and Waweru wa Mahui.

The Association, being made of loyalist chiefs, was never aggressive in its demands. The members therefore failed to get any meaningful concessions from the government.

Later, Harry Thuku and Abdalla Tairara joined the association together with other Christian converts who were labourers, colonial house servants and clerks in Nairobi and central Kenya. When Thuku tried to introduce radicalism in the Association, he was forced to decamp on 7th June 1921 and founded the Young Kikuyu Association.

The East African Association

It began off as Young Kikuyu Association (YKA) in 1921 having been inspired by the Young Buganda Association in Uganda. Its founders included Harry Thuku, Abdalla Tairara, Mwalimu Hamisi and Muhamed Sheikh.

Harry Thuku, the leading founder of this association was a mission educated elite who was working as a telephone operator in Nairobi. He became dissatisfied with the nonaggressiveness of the Kikuyu Association which was dominated by loyalist chiefs, in pressing the colonial government for Africans’ demands.

YKA being very aggressive demanded;

  • The return of African land.
  • Better working conditions for Africans.
  • Reduction of taxes.
  • Withdrawal of Kipande system which had been introduced in 1920.
  • Increase in wages.

YKA incorporated other ethnic community members thus necessitating it to change the name to the East African Association in July 1921. The officials included Harry Thuku (Chairman) George Samuel Okoth, Abdalla Tairara, Kibwana Kambo, Jesse Kang’ethe, Z. K. Sentongo from Uganda, Maitei ole Mootian, Molanket ole Sempele from Tanzania, James Mwanthi and Muhamed Sheikh. EAA became a very popular association in the 1920s attracting huge crowd in its meetings.

Grievances of the East African Association

  • They were demanding for the removal of the status of Kenya as a colonial territory.
  • They were demanding for a common roll for all in the legislative council elections.
  • They wanted the return of the alienated land, back to African owners.
  • They were opposed to forced labour.
  • They wanted more educational facilities and opportunities for Africans.
  • They were demanding that all labour in urban areas be paid fair wages.
  • They wanted the compulsory selling of cattle be stopped.
  • Removal of Kipande System.
  • Protested European domination of government.
  • Wanted hut tax that was exclusively paid by Africans abolished.

Due to the radical approach that was adopted by Harry Thuku, the colonial Governor had him arrested on 15th March 1922 and detained at the Kingsway Police Station (now Nairobi Central Police Station). On 16th March 1922, a Kikuyu Woman, Muthoni Nyanjiru, challenged the African men to violence demanding the release of Thuku. More than 21 people including Muthoni Nyanjiru, were killed when the police opened fire on the over 1000 people who were surging forward.

Harry Thuku was deported to Kisimayu. His colleagues Waiganjo and Mugekenji were banished to Lamu as EAA was banned.

Consequences of Harry Thuku’s arrest

  1. The political parties that succeeded the EAA continued using even more radical approach when they realized that the colonial government was determined to continue using ‘Iron Rule’ in Kenya.
  2. Governor Edward Northey was recalled to London by the then Colonial Secretary, Sir Winston Churchill due to the way he mishandled the Thuku affair.
  3. The colonial government did not allow formation of any other countrywide political Associations among Africans until 1945.
  4. Thuku became the undisputed flag-bearer of Kenyan Nationalism prior to formation of later political parties.

The Kikuyu Central Association

When EAA was banned, its former officials Joseph Kang’ethe and Jesse Kariuki founded the Kikuyu central Association. It was formed in 1924 at Kahuhia, Fort Hall with Kang’ethe becoming the president and Henry Gichuru, secretary. Job Muchuchu (Treasurer), James Beauttah (secretary-general) and Jesse Kariuki (vice-president). All these were extremist politicians whose activities were closely monitored by the government.


Grievances of the Kikuyu Central Association.

  • They were demanding for the removal of the 1915 Crown Land Ordinance that made Africans mere tenants and not real owners of their land.
  • They were demanding for African representation in the Legislative Council.
  • They were opposed to forced labour.
  • They wanted free primary education as opposed to the colonial education system.
  • Establishment of a secondary school, training facility for hospital workers and a school for girls.
  • Removal of kipande system.
  • They demanded that all colonial laws be translated into Gikuyu Language so that all members of the community could understand them.
  • They demanded for the appointment of a well-educated Paramount Chief elected by the majority of the Agikuyu.
  • Wanted hut tax abolished and other taxes reduced
  • They advocated for the growing of coffee and other cash crops by Africans.
  • To work towards the restoration of alienated African land.
  • To pressurize the colonial government to abolish racial segregation.
  • Respect of African culture & customs e.g. Circumcision/polygamy
  • Agitating release of political prisoners e.g. Harry Thuku.

By 1925, KCA had attracted membership from all large urban centres in Kenya and the Kikuyu squatters in the Rift Valley. They presented their demands to Governor Grigg when he visited Fort Hall in 1925.

In 1927, KCA relocated its headquarters from Murang’a to Nairobi in order to link up with other Kenyan elites. In 1928, Jomo Kenyatta became its Secretary- General, taking over from James Beauttah who had been transferred from Nairobi in an act of sabotage by the government. Kenyatta started the Association newspaper, Muigwithania which was instrumental in reviving the cultural values of the Agikuyu.

When the Hilton Young Commission was formed in 1927 to look into the question of the federation of Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika, KCA through Jomo Kenyatta presented the following demands to it;

  • Introduction of free primary education for Africans.
  • Provision of secondary and higher education for Africans.
  • Abolition of kipande system
  • Appointment of Africans to LEGCO
  • Release of Harry Thuku
  • Giving of Title Deeds to Africans as a guarantee against any further land alienation.
  • Rejection of the proposed East Africa Federation

KCA championed female circumcision arguing that it was a beautiful cultural practice which eradicated prostitution in the community. When the Church of Scotland Mission, African inland Mission and CMS expelled all sympathizers with the practice from their missions, KCA responded by leading the pack in the beginning of independent schools and churches.

KCA sent Jomo Kenyatta, accompanied by Parmenas Mukiri, to present Agikuyu grievances in 1929 to the colonial office in London. It also helped kikuyu elders in preparing evidence to the Kenya Land Commission in 1931.Rivalry for power within the KCA between 1931 and 1938 nearly rocked the association.

The Association was banned in 1940 alongside others.

Kavirondo Tax Payers and Welfare Association

It started as Young Kavirondo Association (YKA) in December 1921 at a Baraza held in Ludha, central Nyanza, by mission educated Luo and Luhyia men. The meeting was meant to discuss issues affecting African communities.The official of the Association were Jonathan Okwiri (chairman), Simon Nyende (Treasurer), Benjamin Owuor (secretary), Rueben Omulo, Ezekiel Apindi, George Samuel Okoth, Mathayo Otieno, Joel Omino and Jolmeo Okaka.

The demands of the YKA included;

  • They were demanding for addressing of the problem of change of the status of Kenya from a protectorate to colonial territory.
  • Demanded for a government school to be built in central Nyanza.
  • Demanded for a self- government for nyanza province with a separate legislative council and an elected African president.
  • They were opposed to forced labour and labour camps.
  • An end to land alienation.
  • Creation of the position of paramount chief for central and southern Nyanza, just like Mumias was for northern Nyanza.
  • Removal of Kipande System.
  • Demanded to be given title deeds for their land.
  • Wanted hut tax removed.
  • The advocated for better wages.

The members presented their demands to the Nyanza PC in May 1922 and met governor Northey in Kisumu in July 1922 at Nyahera in Kisumu. The governor agreed to authorize the closing down of labour camps and reduce taxation. However, the revocation of the Crown Colony Status was out of question.

In 1923, however, government, alarmed by the mobilization level of YKA in Nyanza, compromised its leadership and Jonathan Okwiri handed over chairmanship to Archdeacon Owen fearing the banning of the association the way EAA had been. Under Owen YKA changed its name to KTWA with its emphasis shifting from political grievances to social grievances focusing on killing rats, digging latrines and keeping compounds clean.

It also adopted the use of written memoranda in expressing their grievances. All Nyanza chiefs became Vice-presidents of the association under its new constitution.

In 1931, the association split up into Luo and Luyia Factions due to disagreements. The Abaluhyia faction formed the North Kavirondo Central Association that had close links with the KCA. It was formed with the objective of stopping any further land alienation for European use without compensation, especially after the 1930s Kakamega Gold rush.

By 1944, many of the top leaders of the KTWA had been co-opted into the colonial administration with Okwiri becoming a chief. Benjamin Owuor, Nyende and Okwiri were made members of the LNC in central Nyanza. KWTA was therefore weakened and became extinct in 1944.

Ukamba Members Association

UMA was formed in 1938 by Samuel Muindi Mbingu (Chairman), Elijah Kavula (Vice-chairman), Isaac Mwalozi (secretary) and Simon Kioko (treasurer) as an association of the Akamba of the eastern part of Kenya.The leaders who founded this association were closely associated with East African Association of Harry Thuku. For example, James Mwanthi, Ali Kilonzi and Muhamed Sheikh.

Reasons for the formation of Ukamba Members Association

  1. The Akamba wanted to fight against land alienation for European ranchers causing shortage of land for grazing.
  2. To oppose the colonial policy of de-stocking who argued that overstocking was responsible for soil erosion in Kitui and Machakos regions. In 1936, the Liebigs Group established a meat processing plant to effect the de-stocking policy.
  3. To oppose heavy taxation.
  4. To represent the Akamba people’s interests.
  5. To fight for the Akamba rights and freedoms

They wrote memorandum to the colonial government with the assistance of Asian lawyers. It mobilized people to fight for their rights through meetings and signing of petitions. They got support from KCA and the Asian representative to the Legco, Isher Das.The association used Muigwithania journal of KCA to advance their cause.

On 28th July 1938, UMA members including women and children demonstrated and marched to Nairobi with their cattle to seek audience with the governor over destocking and grazing policies. They staged a sit in Nairobi for 6 weeks led by Muindi Mbingu until the governor conceded to their demands at a meeting in Machakos. However, their leader, Muindi Mbingu was arrested in September 1938 and deported to Lamu until 1946.

The Association was banned at the beginning of World War II.

Problems that faced UMA in its operations

  1. The colonial government had a negative attitude towards the activities of the association. This discouraged open participation.
  2. Arrest of their leader Muindi Mbingu and his deportation to Lamu demoralized the movement.
  3. The Association alongside others was banned, with the World War II looming.

Coast Africa Association

The Association was formed in 1943 with Noah Mwana Sele as president, Muhamed bin Mwichande as vice president, E.W. Timothy as secretary General and H.G.Banks as honorary treasurer. Other officials were Muhamed bin Omar, Enoch Benjamin and H. Harrison.

Demands of Coast Africa Association.

  1. The demanded for improved education and the general welfare of Africans in the coastal region
  2. The elevation of Shimo la Tewa to a high school.
  3. The establishment of evening classes in the region so as to give African adults a chance to pursue basic western education.
  4. to protest inadequate healthcare services for the Africans.
  5. They were demanding for appointment of Africans as administrators.
  6. They demanded that tax collected from African drinks be used to develop African rural areas.
  7. They demanded for the revocation of allocation of Mijikenda land to Asians and Arabs.
  8. They demanded for African representation of Coast region in the LEGCO in 1947.

Unlike other Associations CAA did not present their grievances in political meetings bur instead used written memoranda and also their newspaper, the Coast African Express whose editor wads Elkana Young. This explains why the association existed while others had been banned.

In 1955 however, the association began to disintegrate due to the following reasons;

  1. The departure of their leaders Francis Khamisi and Ronald Ngala who joined the Mombasa African democratic union and the LEGCO.
  2. Leadership wrangles based on ethnic consideration.
  3. Shortage of funds to run the activities of the association.

It succeeded in achieving elevation of Shimo la Tewa school into a high school and a Legco position for the Mijikenda.


Taita Hills Association

It was formed on 22nd June 1939, being modeled on the KCA and UMA styles.

Its objectives were;

  • To achieve equal political status with whites and Asians.
  • To help the Taita community to advance.
  • To protest the destocking policy. Most of the fertile land of the community had been occupied by European settlers who were growing coffee on it.
  • Oppose the plan to relocate the Wada Wida people from Taita hills to Samburu to create room for settlers.
  • They were opposed to the kipande system and forced labour. The Europeans forced the Wataita to work on coffee plantations and ferry the coffee over long distances for low wages.

The pioneer founder of the Association was Daniel Mapinga, a young catechist, who began mobilizing the Wataita against oppressive measures used by the colonial government. Unfortunately he died in 1837.In 1939, Woresho Kolandi Mengo, Jimmy Mwambichi and Paul Chumbo took over his course and established THA with the help of KCA leadership.


  1. The association succeeded in stopping the government’s plan to relocate the Wada Wida people from Taita hills to Samburu to create room for settlers.
  2. The colonial government stopped the de-stocking plan among the Wataita.
  3. The government revised the Taita reserve boundaries and reduced the land initially carved for European settlers.

Problems experienced

  1. It failed to attract prominent personalities I Tata.
  2. It lacked support of all the African groups in the region. For example the Wataveta and Wagisiga were reluctant to join THA.
  3. The association was banned alongside others in May 1940.
  4. Their leader Mwambichi was deported after being arrested.

Problems Faced by Early Political Organizations.

  1. Their members were subjected to harassment by the colonial government, especially arresting and dispersing demonstrators.
  2. The organizations were demoralized through the deportation of the leaders like Thuku (EAA). Muindi Mbingu (UMA) and Mwambichi (THA).
  3. The associations experienced political wrangles between members as witnessed in KCA between 1931 1nd 1839 and CAA upon departure of its tow key leaders.
  4. Many of the leaders of the organizations had little experience in running political parties and therefore mismanaged their offices.
  5. The organizations were faced with financial inadequacy. Many Africans were experiencing financial problems due to land alienation, taxation and poor working conditions and therefore could not adequately contribute to the associations.
  6. There was a lot of disunity since most organizations were ethnic-based

Features of the Political Associations Formed in Kenya before 1939

  1. They lacked a national outlook since they were ethnic (tribal based/oriented/urban based). Most of them were confined to one or two ethnic communities except EAA.
  2. Most of them received material and moral support from the Asians
  3. Mission-Educated African young men led them. For example, Harry Thuku, Okwiri and Mwambichi.
  4. They were formed in response to socio-economic and land problems of various ethnic groups.
  5. They all agitated for an end to European exploitation and oppression rather than demand for political independence.
  6. Most of them did not attract large membership due to their ethnic tendency.
  7. They were non-militant and tended to be moderate and their demanded.
  8. They were characterized by squabbles over leadership.

Achievements of Early Political Parties.

  1. They provided political education to the African communities through their political rallies.
  2. They communicated the communities’ feelings to the colonial government through publications, memoranda or speeches.
  3. They defended the African cultures against further erosion by the European missionaries. For example KCA defended female circumcision among agikuyu.
  4. They re-awakened the masses by making them conscious of the political situation in the country.
  5. Some succeeded in to stop further land alienation by restraining the Europeans from displacing the Africans to the reserves. For example THA succeeded in stopping the government’s plan to relocate the Wada Wida people from Taita hills to Samburu to create room for settlers.
  6. The played the role of trade Unionism by fighting for the welfare of the workers in the absence of formal trade unions.
  7. They publicized Africans’ grievances to the international community. For Example, the role played by Jomo Kenyatta on behalf of KCA.
  8. They pioneered in the growth of nationalism by forging inter-community relations in the struggle for independence.

Emergence of Independent Churches and Schools Movement in Kenya

This was an expression of African protest against European interference with traditional African economic and political organization.

Reasons why Independent Churches and Schools Emerged in Kenya

  1. The desire by majority of Africans to retain their cultural values while at the same time converting to Christianity. Many were unhappy with the western influence of Christian missionaries who taught against traditional customs.
  2. Africans were unhappy with the 3Rs style of education in mission schools which only prepared them for low positions in government or employment on European farms and homes. They desired to be equal to Europeans and Asians.
  3. Independent schools emerged as a reaction against colonial domination and exploitation in terms of taxation, kipande, forced labour and racial discrimination.
  4. Africans desired leadership in their own churches instead of being led by European missionaries whom they viewed as agents of colonialism.
  5. The role played by Africans like John Owalo and Elijah Masinde who claimed to have received divine calls to begin independent churches.
  6. Some Africans felt dissatisfied with the interpretation of the scriptures. The Holy Spirit Church, for example, broke away on this account.
  7. Some churches were formed to allow Africans to express their Christianity freely through dancing, singing and drum beating which many mission churches did not accommodate.

Characteristics of Independent Churches and Schools.

  1. All of them accommodated African cultural values.
  2. Both churches and schools valued Christianity and western education but were against the westernizing influence by missionaries.
  3. Africans held positions of leadership in the churches and schools.
  4. Most Churches and schools worked closely with the African political association.

The Independent Churches Movement in Nyanza

John Owalo is credited for leading in the establishment of independent churches in nyanza. He stared as a Roman Catholic, then joined the Church of Scotland mission (CSM) at Kikuyu before moving to the CMS first in Nairobi, then defected to Maseno.

The reason why Owalo suffered from denominational defection is because he was seeking for a mission church that accommodated African cultural values and where Africans could be given a say I terms of leadership and worship. In 1907, Owalo claimed to have received a direct call from God with instructions to begin his own church. Though CMS at Maseno dismissed him as a ‘lunatic’, the colonial authority (Nyanza

PC John Ainsworth) granted Owalo permission to start his own mission. In 1910, he founded the Nomiya Luo Church, which became the first independent church in Kenya. Owalo proclaimed himself as a prophet equating similar to Jesus.

Other independent churches in Nyanza included;

  1. Dini ya Roho (Holy Spirit Church) founded among the Luhyia in 1927 as a breakaway from the Friends African Mission. The members claimed to speak in tongues and believed in baptism by the ‘holy spirit’,
  2. Joroho church founded by Alfayo Odongo Mango in 1932 among the Luo. It was similar to Dini ya Roho.
  3. The Christian Universal Evangelical Union founded in 1938 In Siaya by Ismael Noo, a school teacher linked to the Anglican Church at Maseno. He began off as one of the leaders of the revival movement at Maseno, which emphasized salvation by the blood of Jesus and public confession of sin. His movement insisted that men and women should have sexual intercourse since they were saved. His church attracted many women and soon he was accused of infidelity with peoples’ wives. He officially broke away from the Anglican Church at a convention at Nyabondo in Nyakach to establish the Christian Evangelical Union. The church is currently known as the Christian Evangelical Church, having changed its name in 1965.

The independent churches and schools movement in central Kenya

Due to its proximity to Nairobi, the seat of colonial administration, central Kenya experienced the presence of white settlers more than any other region in Kenya. The schools established by the so many missionary groups in the region only aimed at imparting basic literacy and numeracy skills to African converts. As the evangelized, the \missionary groups condemned many traditional African practices and values like polygamy, consumption of traditional brews and female circumcision. It is behind this backdrop that independent churches and schools emerged in central Kenya.

Kikuyu Independent Schools

Kikuyu elders out of the desire for western education for their children, without necessarily being Europeanized, set up independent schools. In 1913, a Kikuyu elder, Mukunga wa Njehu, donated land at Gaithieko, Kiambu where the first independent school In central kenya was built.

In 1925, another school had been built and registered at Githunguri.The independent Schools Movement emerged in the 1920s as a result of the expulsion from mission schools of the children of the supporters of female circumcision. The two bodies that emerged as a consequence were Kikuyu Independent Schools Association (KISA) and the Kikuyu Karinga Educational Association (KKEA)

The Kikuyu Independent Schools Association

The Body was closely associated with the Independent Pentecostal Church and was predominantly in Murang’a, Nyeri and Embu.

Following a showdown over female circumcision, the kikuyu elders got permission from the DC to build a prayer House around Gituamba on land donated by two elders, Kagere Gatundu and Gathai Gachohi of Thiru sub-location. Between 1929 and 1932, a school was set up at the church. This success inspired the emergence of similar churches and schools in Mariira, Kahiti and Gakarara in Kandara, Murang’a.

In 1934, KISA was established to coordinate the efficient running of these schools with its leaders including Daudi Maina Kiragu, Musa Muriithi, Hezekiah Gachui, Peter Gathecha and Johana Njoroge.The Association had the responsibility of establishing more schools and maintaining them as well as mobilizing funds for teacher training programmes. Their activities got the support of the colonial authorities which even permitted establishment of more schools that must be registered at the DO’s office.

By 1935, KISA had established 34 independent schools with an enrolment of 2,518 pupils.

Similar schools emerged in the Rift Valley among the kikuyu squatters.

Challenges encountered by KISA.

  1. There were inadequate funds to support the large number of pupils and schools.
  2. Many teachers were untrained.
  3. Many of the KISA leaders lacked proper management skills.
  4. Mission schools fought the efforts of KISA leaders.
  5. There were disagreements among KISA leaders where some demanded for money for the land they had donated for the schools.
  6. The independent churches also suffered from lack of ordained ministers. This problem was solved when KCA invited the Most Reverend William Alexander, the Archbishop of the African Orthodox Church in South Africa in 1935, who established a seminary at Gituamba and ordained Daudi Maina Kiragu, Philip Kiande and Harrison Gachukia Kimanga as Ministers.In 1937 after Archbishop Alexander had left, Daudi Maina Kiragu and Harrison Gachukia Kimanga broke away and formed the African Independent Pentecostal Church which they claimed was independent from external influence.In 1938, KISA named their church the Independent Pentecostal Church.

By 1952, at the time of its banning, KISA had 168 schools with an enrolment of 60,000 pupils in central Kenya and rift valley.

Kikuyu Karinga Educational Association

The association emerged out of a split at the Gituamba between the Murang’a group and the -Kiambu members who were radical and were more closely associated with KCA.

The term ‘Karinga’ means ‘pure’ implying unpolluted kikuyu customs and values. KKEA was opposed to all forms of cooperation with either the missionaries or the colonial authority.

By 1940, it had established 12 schools in Kiambu and 11 in the rift valley. By 1952, it had established schools at Moshi and Arusha in Tanganyika. It established its own church in 1952(the African Orthodox Church of Kenya), relying on church ministers trained at Gituamba seminary.

It was led by Arthur Gathuna and Philip Kiande. The Association was banned in 1952 after declaration of a State of Emergency.

In 1939, the Kenya Teachers Training College was established at Githunguri, Kiambu, to train teachers for the independent schools. Mbiyu Koinange was the first principal. It was closed in 1952 alongside other independent schools.

Problems Faced by Independent Churches and Schools

  1. Poor leadership as many churches and schools were led by people without any management experience. Many of them lacked trained personnel who could run them efficiently.
  2. They faced a lot of hostility from the colonial government and missionaries who constantly harassed them.
  3. Ideological differences among their leaders on which name to adopt. There were also many leadership squabbles as all founders wanted to be recognized.
  4. The schools were forced to follow the official syllabus and become members of the District Education Board.
  5. The independent churches and schools competed with mission churches and schools for followers with the later declaring war on certain African practices

Political Organizations and Movements after 1945

Factors that Hastened Political Development in Kenya after 1945.

  1. The Acquisition of western education by many Africans by 1945 which enabled them to articulate their grievances more forcefully and to understand political developments outside Kenya.
  2. The return of the ex-servicemen after the second world war which exposed the myth of the white supremacy making Africans ready to fight them. Moreover, the colonial government failed to reward African ex-soldiers to embitter them more.
  3. The change of government from Conservative to Labour Party in Britain in 1946 stimulated a new attitude in Britain towards decolonization. Africans in Kenya took advantage of this attitude.
  4. The granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947 aroused great confidence among Africans in Kenya to also clamour for their own independence.
  5. The rise of Pan-Africanism in Africa after the 1945 Manchester conference contributed to the new demands for political independence in Kenya.
  6. The formation of the UNO and the pressure it exerted on the European powers to decolonize helped the Kenyans in their course.
  7. The emergence of United States and the Soviet Union as super powers in the world contributed to the decolonization process. USA was keen to see Britain and France grant independence to their subjects in the world in order to secure new markets.
  8. The signing of the Atlantic Charter in 1941 by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt which demanded that when the WWII ended, all subject peoples should enjoy the right to self-determination.
  9. The costs incurred by the European nations during WW2 made their taxpayers become reluctant to raise any more funds for colonial expenditures.

Characteristics of Political Parties Formed after 1945.

  1. They had a national outlook as members were drawn from different ethnic groups
  2. Their main objectives was to fight for independence
  3. Educated elites led them
  4. They had a large membership.
  5. They demanded for fair taxation for Africans.
  6. They all demanded for improved conditions for African workers.
  7. They all demanded for the return of alienated land.

Kenya African Study Union

When Eliud Mathu was nominated to the Legco on 10th October 1944, a number of well educated Africans led by Francis Khamisi agreed to form Kenya African Union (KAU) with the following objectives;.

  1. To assist Mathu in his new task as the first African nominated to the LEGCO.
  2. To create a Multi-ethnic political grouping representing the interests and constitutional rights of all Africans effectively.
  3. To advocate for more constitutional reforms for Africans.
  4. To demand for better living and working conditions.

The interim officials were Harry Thuku (chairman), Francis Khamisi (Secretary) and Albert Owino (treasurer). Other officials were James Gichuru, John Kebaso, Simeon Mulandi, Harry ole Nangurai, S.0. Josiah, F.M. Ng’anga, Jimmy Jeremiah, J.D. Otiende and S.D. Jakay.

Two weeks after its formation, the governor ordered its officials to change its name to the Kenya African Study Union as it was meant to help Mathu in studying African problems.In January 1945, James Gichuru became the president of KASU after Harry Thuku resigned, being unable to cope with radicalism in the union.

Under Gichuru, KASU published a newspaper - Sauti ya Mwafrika that concentrated on African grievances and the proposed East African Federation which they opposed.

The organization rejected proposals to give more powers to European members in the Executive council. They refused to accept a European dominated government of the East African Federation. Later in 1946 on KASU changed its name to KAU feeling that the former name was inappropriate.

Kenya African Union

Formed in February 1946, the main demands of KAU were;

  • They protested against inadequate African representation in the LEGCO.
  • They protested against the lack of Participation of Africans in the governance of Kenya. They even demanded for Self-government for Africans.
  • They were against the continued existence of the Kipande System and forced labour.
  • They demanded improvement of the African working conditions with better wages equal to what was paid to other races.
  • They demanded an end to Land alienation and racial discrimination.
  • They demanded an end to Imposition of taxes.
  • They demanded compensation of ex-servicemen.
  • They were protesting against Lack of education opportunities for Africans.

The return to Kenya by Kenyatta in 1946 marked the beginning of mass nationalism. On 1st June 1947, Kenyatta became president of KAU after Gichuru stepped down for him. W.W.W. Awori was elected vice-president and Ambrose Ofafa and Muchohi Gikonyo were elected treasurer and secretary respectively.

Kenyatta travelled widely in Kenya where he urged people to join KAU. After 1947 KAU began to face the problem of a standoff between Radicals like Fred Kubai and Paul Ngei who wanted to use force to acquire independence, and moderates like Kenyatta himself. Radicals who included Bildad Kaggia took over the Nairobi branch of KAU.

When the national delegates’ conference was held in 1951, Jomo Kenyatta retained presidency, J.D. Otiende became secretary General, PAUL Ngei –assistant SG and Ole Nangurai –Treasurer. Between 1948 and 1950, KAU faced serious financial problems even failing to pay rent for its offices at the IBEA building.


Other problems that faced KAU

  1. Kenyatta also appeared too busy to run the affairs of the party as he doubled up as the Principal of Githunguri TTC.
  2. The party also faced a lot of hostility from the colonial government and the white settlers.
  3. There were rampant ethnic divisions within the membership of KAU being complicated by the fact that the party appeared to be dominated by one ethnic group, the kikuyu.
  4. Majority of the African population, who were illiterate, lacked political awareness under could not understand the political efforts required of them.

When the Mau Mau movement began, the Nairobi office of Kubai, J.M.Mungai and Kaggia worked closely with it.

KAU continued to expand its membership in Kenya with Ramogi Achieng’ Oneko opening a branch in Kisumu in 1951, Johana Adala and Boaz Muha opened a branch in Maragoli and Muinga Chokwe opened one in Mombasa.In 1952, KAU rallies were banned outside Nairobi after a political meeting in Nyeri, attended by the leader of Mau Mau, Dedan Kimathi, which attracted over 25,000 people thus startling the government.

When a state of emergency was declared in 1952, KAU leaders were arrested for being behind Mau Mau. Walter Odede became the acting president, Joseph Murumbi acting secretary and W.W.W.Awori-acting treasurer.The acting official presented a 24-point memoranda to Oliver Lyttelton , secretary of state for colonies when he came to kenya during the emergency period, demanding the release of the Kapenguria six (Jomo Kenyatta, Paul Ngei, Kung’u Karumba, Bildad Kaggia, Achieng’ Oneko and Fred Kubai)

Walter Odede, the acting president was late arrested on 9th march 1953 while Murumbi escaped to Bombay, India as KAU was banned on 8th June 1953.

Achievements if KAU

  1. Party members especially from the Nairobi branch gave moral and material support to the Mau Mau freedom fighters.
  2. The party provided guidance and political support to Eliud Mathu, the first African representative to the Legco.
  3. The party laid the foundation for the growth of the Kenya African National Union that ushered in independence in Kenya.
  4. Some of the members of the party were active members of Mau Mau. For example, Fred Kubai and Bildad Kaggia.

The Mau Mau Rebellion 1951 - 60

Mau-Mau is an abbreviation which stands for “Mzungu Arudi Ulaya, Mwafrika Apate Uhuru” (meaning let the white man go back to Europe and the Africans regain Independence).

Sometimes the movement was referred to as the ‘Land and Freedom Army’ and the Anake-aForty. Sometime in the late 1940s the General Council of the banned Kikuyu Central Association (KCA) began to make preparations for a campaign of civil disobedience involving all of the Kikuyu in order to protest the land issue.

The members of this initiative were bound together through oath. The rituals obliged the oath taker to fight and defend themselves from Europeans.In These oath rituals, There were rumors about cannibalism, ritual zoophilia with goats, sexual orgies, ritual places decorated with intestines and goat eyes, and that oaths included promises to kill, dismember and burn settlers. The oaths were a cultural symbol of the solidarity that bound Kikuyu men, women and children in loyalty together in their opposition to the colonial government.

It also instilled courage and unity among people,Nonetheless, the British were scared by the oath, made taking the Mau Mau oath a capital offence. The British also screened Mau Mau suspects and forced them to take a 'cleansing oath', a strange instance of colonialism 'gone native'.

Causes of the Mau Mau Rebellion

  1. The unemployment of the ex-soldiers who had been promised jobs after the World War II, but instead were made porters on European-estates. Similarly, people were retrenched, traders pushed out to business by Asian retail trade monopoly and European settlers.
  2. Africans, especially the Kikuyu, wanted their land returned. By 1948, 1.25 million Kikuyu were restricted to 2000 square miles (5,200 km²), while 30,000 settlers occupied 12,000 square miles (31,000 km²) fertile land. In the reserves Africans suffered from congestion, starvation and diseases like typhoid, cholera.
  3. It was a reaction against the Kipande system. This was a method of identity cards imposed on Africans to restrict them from unnecessary movements.
  4. The introduction of racial discrimination in Kenya. The Europeans equated the black colour with low intelligence, uncivilized, barbaric and a backward race. All the best hotels, restaurants, schools, recreational centres and most fertile soils in Kenya were reserved for the whites only.
  5. Africans were fed up of heavy and harsh taxation by the Europeans. Failure to pay tax was punishable by taking away the land or even imprisonment. So the Africans were forced to go and work under harsh condition and for long hours, yet poorly paid.
  6. The dominance of the economy by the Asian and white settlers. The Africans were not allowed to take part in meaningful business, were not given positive consideration in awarding jobs.
  7. They also wanted to be exposed to the social services e.g. education. The white settlers frustrated the African efforts to set up schools even the few educated Africans were not employed in the civil service.
  8. Africans feared a gradual destruction of their culture by the whites e.g. the missionaries were totally against the circumcision of women among the Kikuyu and the traditional view of twins.
  9. Africans wanted a fair share in the administration of their country (Parliament). For a long time many Kenyans were excluded from decision making and political participation the whites and Asians in the Legislative Council did not represent their interests.
  10. The return of Jomo Kenyatta in the 1950s’ after his studies in Europe, he came back with a wider vision to convince the Kenyans about their rights and they therefore united and rebelled.
  11. The role of educated Kenyans who aware of their rights as citizens and in turn educated the rest about their place in society. This prompted them to rebel against the whites.
  12. The colonial policy discouraged Africans from growing cash crops like coffee, tea, cotton, pyrethrum for fear of competition with the Africans who would grow rich and challenge the colonial administration.
  13. Forced labour. Africans were obliged by colonial law to offer labour on the plantation this was to be done forcefully without offering any payments. This kind of new slavery inspired the occurrence of the Mau Mau rebellion.
  14. Influence of the Second World War. Many Kenyans who participated in this war discovered the weakness of the white man and the loopholes in their systems of administration. These included General China, Dedan Kimathi among others who also acquired good military skills.
  15. The move was a quest for constitutional reforms in Kenya. African political parties had been banned with impunity and their leaders like Harry Thuku, Muindi Mbingu and Mwambichi detained
  16. They were protesting colonial brutality especially the mistreatment of Africans on the white farms. Many Africans were killed at the slightest excuse like in the case of the upland Bacon




Factory Massacre in September 1947

The course of the uprising

On May 1, 1949, six trade unions formed the East African Trades Union Congress (EATUC). The union leaders joined with the "Forty Group," which was a roughly cohesive group mostly composed of African ex-servicemen conscripted in 1940 when attempts for a union members strike failed on May 16th 1950.

In June 1951, the urban KAU radicals (Mutonyi, Isaac Gathanga, Bildad Kaggia, Paul Ngei and Fred Kubai) created a secret Central Committee (Muhimu) to coordinate the oath campaign throughout Nairobi and outside Nairobi. It also formed armed squads to enforce its policies, protect members from the police, and kill informers and collaborators.

Different leaders led the Land and Freedom Armies. Three of the dominant Active Wing leaders were Stanley Mathenge; Waruhiu Itote (known as General China), leader of Mount Kenya wing; and Dedan Kimathi, leader of Aberdare forest wing. Others were General Ndung’u Gicheru, General Mwariama and General Matenjagwo (one who never shaves).

Other armies were in Nairobi, Kiambu, Fort Hall and Rift Valley. They were mostly equipped with spears, simis (short swords), kibokos (rhino hide whips) and pangas (machete). Some made their own gunswhile others employed armed robberies on police stations and isolated settler homes. African and Asian merchants funded the movement by paying protection fees.

On 1st of October 1952, Mau Mau assassinated a Nairobi councillor, Tom Mbotela, who was a government loyalist. On 3 October, Mau Mau claimed their first European victim when they stabbed a woman to death near her home in Thika. A week later, on 9 October, Senior Chief Waruhiu, a strong supporter of the British presence in Kenya, had been shot to death in broad daylight in his car. His assassination gave Governor Baring the final impetus to declare a State of Emergency on 20 October 1952. Early the next morning, the British carried out a mass-arrest of 180 alleged Mau Mau leaders and subjected six of them to a trial (the Kapenguria Six); the real militants, such as Dedan Kimathi and Stanley Mathenge, fled to the forests.

While much of the senior leadership of the Nairobi Central Committee was arrested, Local rebel committees took uncoordinated decisions to strike attack settlers and there was an abrupt rise in the destruction of European property and attacks on African loyalists. On January 24, 1953, Mau Mau, possibly former servants, killed settlers Mr. and Mrs. Ruck, as well as their six-year-old son, on their farm with pangas. White settlers reacted by dismissing all of their Kikuyu servants because of the fear that they could be Mau Mau sympathizers.

Naivasha Police Station was raided in March 1953. Over 1800 loyalist Kikuyu were killed. Operating from the safety of the forests, the Mau Mau mainly attacked isolated farms at night, but occasionally also households in suburbs of Nairobi.

In May 1953, the Kikuyu Home Guard became an official part of the security forces. It became the significant part of the anti-Mau Mau effort. On March25–March 26, 1953, nearly 1000 rebels attacked the loyalist village of Lari, where about 170 non-combatants were hacked or burnt to death. Most of them were the wives and children of Kikuyu Home Guards serving elsewhere. In the weeks that followed, some suspected rebels were summarily executed by police and loyalist Home Guards.

In June 1953 General Sir George Erskine arrived and took up the post of Director of Operations. A military draft brought in 20,000 troops who were used aggressively. The Kikuyu reserves were designated "Special Areas," where anyone failing to halt when challenged could be shot. The colonial government created so-called pseudo-gangs composed of de-oathed and turned ex-Mau Mau and allied Africans, sometimes headed by white officers. They infiltrated Mau Mau ranks and made search and destroy missions. By September 1953, the British knew the leading personalities in Mau Mau, the capture of General China in January the following year provided a massive intelligence boost on the forest fighters.

On April 24, 1954, the Army launched "Operation Anvil" in Nairobi, the forest fighters' source of supplies, money and recruits, and the city was put under military control. By the end of 1954 there were 77,000 Kikuyu in concentration camps mainly deported from Nairobi. In June 1954, a policy of compulsory villagization was started in the reserves to allow more effective control and surveillance of civilians and to better protect pro-government collaborators. When the program reached completion in October 1955, 1,077,500 Kikuyu had been concentrated into 854 "villages."The last Mau Mau leader, Dedan Kimathi, was captured by Kikuyu Tribal Police on 21 October 1956 in Nyeri with 13 remaining guerrillas, and was subsequently hanged in early 1957. His capture marked the effective end of the Uprising, though some Mau Mau remained in the forests until 1963 and the Emergency remained in effect until January 1960.

Mau war by Other Communities

  • In April 1953, a Kamba Central Committee was formed by Kamba rebels who were all railway men and effectively controlled the railway workforce. They organized acts of sabotage against the railway lines during the emergency.
  • Rebel Maasai bands became active in Narok district before being crushed by soldiers and police who were tasked with preventing a further spread of the rebellion.
  • In Maragoli, Chief Mukudi of Bunyore was associated with the movement.
  • Other communities involved were the Kipsigis section of kalenjin, Luo etc.

Factors which Facilitated the MAU MAU Uprising.

  1. Oathing, which united the people and gave them the courage, determination and momentum for the rebellion course.
  2. The use of guerilla tactics ensured less loss of life and prolonged war. It made it difficult for the British to suppress the rebellion.
  3. The support to the fighters from the civilians who supplied food, water, spying etc.
  4. Strong leadership for the movement by people like Dedan Kimathi, Waruhiu Itote (General China), Stanley Mathenge and General Matenjagwo.
  5. The deep resentment of the people against the Europeans gave them the reason to continue fighting.
  6. The natural forests of Mount Kenya and Aberdere ranges provided good hideouts for the fighters.
  7. The fighters had enough weapons. They accessed weapons like the homemade guns, swords and Machette to add to what they were able to seize from the settlers.

Problems that Faced Mau Mau Rebellion

  1. The fighters lacked transport and communication facilities.
  2. They were faced with adverse weather conditions, operating in the Aberdere and MountKenya Forests that were extremely cold.
  3. In the Wild environment, they were frequently attacked by wild animals.
  4. They lacked proper fighting equipment when compared to the weaponry of the Europeans.
  5. They faced brutality from the British forces when they were retaliating.
  6. There were constant divisions and disagreements among the fighters.
  7. The movement suffered from the infiltration of spies in form of pseudo-gangs who exposed their military strategies.
  8. The movement suffered from lack of proper coordination due to the use of forest hideouts and mountain terrain by the guerrillas which prevented them from developing a well coordinated strategy.
  9. The arrest of the movement’s key leaders General China and Dedan Kimathi dealt in a devastating blow.
  10. The movement suffered from a disjointed recruitment process with some fighters being coerced into membership which put their loyalty to doubt.

Results of the Mau Mau Uprising

  1. Many people died as a result of the war. The official number of Kenyans killed was estimated at 11,503 by British sources. More than 1,800 Kenyan civilians and 32 British civilians were killed by Mau Mau militants.
  2. The war attracted the attention of British citizens and international community to the crimes committed by the colonial administration. British forces committed widespread human rights abuses, including rape, torture and castration.
  3. Many Africans were arrested and detained while thousands were seriously injured during the interrogations. For example, 11 of the 88 detainees at Hola Camp lost their lives as the rest were seriously injured in brutality incident.
  4. The war speeded up the march to independence especially when the realty of the inability of the colonial administration to govern kenya dawned on the British government
  5. The uprising led to destruction of property. Villages, houses and crops were burned down.
  6. The war led to the relocation of the Agikuyu, Ameru and Aembu communities from Nairobi region as their jobs were taken by people from western and rift valley who did not participate in the rebellion.
  7. The uprising led to the reduction of the influence of the settlers in Kenya as it was realized that it was the enormous settler influence that was responsible for the insurgence.
  8. The war forced the colonial authority to apply tough measures to restrict the activities of African political parties such as KAU that was banned in 1952.
  9. The war led to the beginning of a program of villagization and land reform consolidated the land holdings of the Kikuyu, thereby creating emergency kikuyu villages in various parts of the country.
  10. It led to the declaration of a state of emergence in Kenya on 20th October 1952.
  11. The war bred bitterness among members of Agikuyu Aembu and Ameru where some were government loyalists while others were Mau Mau supporters.
  12. The war resulted into the land reform measures that came to be known as the SwynnertonPlan of 1954 that sparked off the resettlement of Africans in the countryside.

Swynnerton Plan

Refusing to give more land to the Kikuyu in the reserves, which could have been seen as a concession to Mau Mau, Baring turned instead in 1953 to Roger Swynnerton, Kenya's assistant director of agriculture. The primary goal of the Swynnerton Plan was the creation of family holdings large enough to keep families self-sufficient in food and to enable them to practice alternate husbandry, which would generate a cash income.

Recommendations of the Swynnerton Plan of 1954
  1. The survey and enclosure of African land in high potential areas.
  2. The processing of title deeds and giving out title deeds to the owners. Only progressive African farmers would get title deeds and benefit from the land reforms.
  3. A few Africans were allowed to practice new agricultural methods and obtain credit as well as title deeds.
  4. A few African s were allowed to practice individual land ownership.
  5. A few progressive African farmers were allowed to grow cash crops.

Kenya African National Union

During the emergency period, (From October 1952 to December 1959) African participation in the political process increased rapidly.

The Kenya African National Union (KANU) was formed after the First Lancaster House Conference of January 1960 resolved that nationwide political parties be formed in Kenya as a step towards decolonization.

On 27th march 1960, at a meeting at Kirigiti, Kiambu convened by ex-KAU strongmen, James Gichuru and Oginga Odinga, KAU merged with Kenya Independent Movement and the People's Congress Party to form KANU. The colonial government declined to register KANU with Kenyatta as president since he was still in detention.

In May 1960 James Gichuru took the presidency with Odinga as his deputy. Tom Mboya became the secretary General and Arthur Ochwada his assistant. Ronald Ngala and Daniel Moi were elected treasurer and assistant treasurer respectively in absentia as they were attending a commonwealth parliamentary Association meeting in London.In the party’s constitution, drafted by Mwai Kibaki and Tom Mboya, the following were the objectives;

  1. To attain political independence for Africans inn Kenya.
  2. To achieve national unity through a unitary national constitution under one central government.
  3. To create a society based on African socialism.
  4. To eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease.
  5. To get back African land.
  6. To have all political detainees released.
  7. To unite with liberation movements in other countries in a Africa in order to end imperialism and colonialism in the continent.
  8. To encourage good neighbourliness in the East African Region.

When Kenyata was released, he took over leadership of the party. During the independence elections in may 1963, KANU won 73 seats against KADU’s 31 and African Peoples’ Party’s 8 . Jomo Kenyatta became the Prime Minister on 1st June 1963.

Achievements of KANU in the struggle for independence.

  1. KANU mobilized Africans in Kenya and united them in the struggle for independence.
  2. Through its numerous nationwide meetings, it provided political education to the Africans in Kenya.
  3. It participated in the independence constitution making process by being part of the Lancaster House conference of 1962.

Challenges faced by KANU in the struggle for independence.

  1. There was disunity among its members with some suspicious of the big communities who had taken up key leadership positions
  2. The party faced the problem of lacking adequate funds to carry out its countrywide campaigns for Independence.
  3. The KANU leaders suffered from ideological differences with some opposing the unitary system of government as advocated by the party’s constitution.
  4. Some members were dissatisfied with the way party affairs were being run especially the elections which they felt were not fair.

Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU)

KADU was formed in 1960 as an alliance of minority ethnic political groups to protect the rights /interests of the minority groups against possible domination of KANU /majority groups.

Its senior leaders included Ronald Ngala (president), Masinde Muliro (Vice president), Daniel Arap Moi (chairman), Martin Shikuku (secretary General) and Justus ole Tipis (treasurer).

KADU leaders advocated for a federal system while KANU group were advocating for a unitary system of government. When KANU refused to form government while Kenyatta was still in detention, KADU formed the first coalition government with the Europeans and Asians who belonged to Michael Blundell’s New Kenya Party after garnering 11 seats in the May 1961 elections.

In 1962, KADU and KANU formed a coalition government while awaiting the 1963 elections. Following the defeat by KANU in the May 1963 elections, it became the major opposition party until 1964 when it was disbanded after persuasions from Jomo Kenyatta.

Roles played by the Kenya African Democratic Union in the struggle for independence.

  1. It united the smaller communities in Kenya. E.g the Kalenjin, Luhyia, Maasai and coastal communities.
  2. It educated/ mobilized Africans against the colonial domination.
  3. It pressed for the release of Jomo Kenyatta while hopping that he would eventually join on their side.
  4. It participated in drawing up the independence constitution in the second Lancaster House conference.
  5. As an opposition party though for a short time, it helped to provide checks on the KANU government.

Challenges faced by KADU

  1. There were suspicions of dominance of the party by some communities.
  2. The party faced the problem of lacking adequate funds to carry out its countrywide campaigns for Independence.
  3. Wrangles between senior officials of the party often undermined the party’s operations.
  4. Illiteracy among the majority of the members left the top leaders with too much responsibility over party affairs.
  5. The party was prone to manipulations by the colonial authority in its operations.
  6. The party members were faced with a lot of pressure from KANU to decamp.

African People’s Party

The party also emerged after the 1962 Lancaster House conference, founded by Paul Ngei, one of the radical members of KAU’s Nairobi branch.

Paul Ngei had similar fears just like the founders of KADU that the Akamba interests would not be catered for in the proposed government arrangement that favoured KANU as well as KADU. The party was formed in February 1962. After Kenya became a republic in 1964, APP decamped from the opposition to join KANU.

The Trade-union Movement

The early trade Unions in Kenya were formed along racial lines though all form them aimed at addressing labour problems that faced workers. The first trade union in Kenya was the Indian Trade Union formed in 1914 in mombasa. Upto 1914, there existed no African trade union in Kenya because of the following reasons;

  1. Artisans and farm labourers were not allowed to join or form associations since it was feared they would organize sudden and unofficial strikes.
  2. Majority of the Kenyans were illiterate and lacked the knowledge to run workers’ unions.
  3. The migrant labour system militated against the establishment of such unions.
  4. The colonial government fought attempts by Africans to form workers’ organizations.

For this reason, in the 1920s, African political organizations doubled up as also defenders of workers welfare.

In 1922, Asian workers in the railway department formed the Railway Artisans Union but its officials were sacked by the government causing it to wind up in 1923.

in 1930s, a Trade Union Committee was formed in Mombasa by Masons and labourers with R.M. Shah as its president.In 1934, the Indian Trade Union became the Kenya Indian Labour Trade Union (KLTU ) whose membership was from other towns in Kenya.

By 1935, the union began admitting members from other races necessitating it to change its name to Labour Trade Union of Kenya (LTUK). When it expanded its membership to the rest of East Africa in 1939, it became known as the Labour Trade Union of East Africa (LTUEA) on 14th January 1947, over 15,000 striking African workers of Mombasa formed the African Workers Union (AWU). Muhamed Kibwana was elected president, Mwangi Macharia-secretary, Mbaruk Kenze-treasurer and Chege Kibachia –executive officer.

The Union’s demands included;

  1. A salary increase due to the high cost of living.
  2. Implementation of the policy of equal pay for equal work regardless of race.
  3. Respect for African workers wherever they were employed.
  4. Payment of sufficient allowances to cater for African wives and children.
  5. Elimination of the deliberate strategies applied by employers to keep Africans in their places of work all the time.The Union changed its name to African Workers’ Federation on 24th January 1947 at the advice of Eliud Mathu who also convinced them to end the strike. Meanwhile a trade dispute tribunal led by Mr. Justice Thacker was set up to look into the workers’ grievances.The AWF became very popular to all workers in Kenya due to the success of the strike. However its leaders were either repatriated from Mombasa to their reserve areas or as was the case of Kibachia, arrested and detained in Baringo district.Achievements of AWF.
  6. It mobilized workers from different communities to come together and fight for better wages.
  7. It provided education to the workers about their rights.
  8. It introduced the concept of collective bargaining among workers in Kenya.
  9. It fought for better living and working conditions for workers.
  10. It advocated for better allowances for African workers’ wives and children, a factor which resulted in better wages and salaries for workers.
  11. Its activities made the colonial government change its attitude towards labour unions and start to give attention to workers’ grievances.
  12. It succeeded in exposing the Kenyan workers’ grievances to the international community as its strike was internationally publicized.

Kenya Federation of Labour

Following the enactment of the Trade Unions Ordinance in 1952, various small African trade unions (Kenya Local Government Workers’’ Union, Domestic and Hotel Workers’ Union and East AFRICAN Federation of Building and Construction) united to form the Kenya Federation of Registered Trade Unions (KFRTU).

Its officials included Mwichigi Karanja (president), Aggrey Mwinya(secretary general), S. Ondiege, Elikana Okusimba, Silas Okeya, David Jomo, S. Osore, James Wainaina and Dishon Sambili.

Among the demands of KFRTU were the following;

  • Increase in African wages.
  • Improvement of the living conditions and poor housing for its workers
  • Protest against the arrest and detention of union officials.
  • Protest against forceful evacuation of the Aembu, Ameru and Agikuyu from Nairobi In 1953.
  • Protest against increase in the price of tea and bread in 1955
  • Protest against the continuity of the state of emergency.

In 1953, Tom Mboya’s Kenya Local Government workers’ Union (KLGWU) joined KFRTU. The following were elected officials in the 1953 elections. David Njomo-prrsident, Stephen Obwaka- vice president, Tom Mboya- general secretary, G.W.Owuor-assistant SG, Daniel Ng’ethetreasurer and John Opiyo- ass treasurer.

In 1955, it changed its name to the Kenya Federation of Labour (KFL) representing 35,000 members.

Due to Tom Mboya’s efforts KFL was affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

Achievements of KFL.

  1. It kept the spirit of African nationalism alive during the emergency period when political associations had been banned.
  2. It secured international support through its affiliation to ICFTU for the cause of African nationalism.
  3. It educated Africans on their rights as workers.
  4. It helped to improve the living conditions of African workers securing for them a major salary increment in 1956
  5. It prepared some African nationalists for leadership roles in the struggle for independence. For example, martin Shikuku and Tom Mboya.

Role of Trade Union Movement in the Struggle for Independence in Kenya

  1. Trade Unions mobilized workers to strike against colonial government.
  2. They Motivated workers to sustain the struggle for their political rights/self governance
  3. They provided national political parties with funds required for their operation.
  4. Trade union leaders became prominent leaders of political associations that fought for independence.
  5. They introduced the concept of collective bargaining for workers in Kenya.
  6. The unions promoted regional cooperation in east Africa.
  7. They improved working conditions of the Africans through their welfare duties.
  8. They intensified the spirit of nationalism after ban on political parties.
  9. They provided a training ground for nationalist leaders e.g. Thomas Mboya
  10. Educated Africans on their rights

Problems Faced by Trade Unions during the Colonial Period

  1. There was fear of victimization and harassment from the colonial authorities especially in the pioneer years.
  2. The migrant nature of African workforce paused a challenge to their membership.
  3. Ignorance of the African people about trade unionism and its role.
  4. Poor leadership which affected the running of pioneer trade unions.
  5. Shortage of funds since they relied on meager contributions from the poorly paid workers.
  6. Mismanagement of funds by the officials due to inexperience or corruption.
  7. Ethnicity, which had a hand in the choice of leaders for the unions.
  8. Constant wrangles among the leaders of the unions.

Role of Women in the Struggle for Independence

Key Women Contributors in the Struggle for Independence

  1. Mekatilili WA Menza of Giriama who mobilized and administered oaths to the kaya elders to cause the Agiriama resistance
  2. Moraa, a Kitutu, prophetess of Gusii who was instrumental in the Gusii resistance.
  3. Mary Muthoni Nyanjiru, famously remembered for inciting men to riot when Harry Thuku had been arrested in Nairobi in March 1922
  4. Syotune wa Kithuke, a Kamba prophetess who used the kilumi dance in 1911 to mobilize the Akamba to protest against British colonialism.

Role played by Women in the Struggle for Independence.

  1. The women acted as spies to the Mau Mau fighters in Nairobi and other urban centres. They supplied arms to fighters.
  2. They contributed to the establishment of independent churches and schools. For example, Legio Maria was co-founded by a Woman, Aoko, in western Kenya.
  3. They provided food to the fighters in the bushes.
  4. In central Kenya, they composed songs and dances, which ridiculed colonial chiefs and other agents of the colonial system. E.g Muthirigu.
  5. They, looked after families, as the men were busy fighting in bushes.
  6. In the 1930s, some section of the agikuyu women formed the Mumbi Central Association, feeling that KCA was not recognizing their contribution.
  7. The hid the fighters in houses.
  8. They participated in the oathing ceremonies, some acting as chief oathing administrators.
  9. Some participated actively in the freedom wars and were even killed e.g. Marshal Muthoni, Elizabeth Gachika etc.
  10. They participated in demonstrations and meetings to fight colonialists.
  11. They joined the MAU MAU fighters in the forest, with the main role of organizing and coordinating the rural network. They Supplied information to their husbands in the bush.
  12. They smuggled arms from the whites to the fighters.
  13. They led and inspired the resistance through their prophecy and encouragement e.g. Moraa and Mekatilili.
  14. In 1960, a woman, Priscilla Abwao, took part in the Lancaster House Conference. London, to prepare the independence constitution.

Role of Women in the Mau Mau Movement

  1. Some women were fully-fledged warriors fighting alongside men. 'Field Marshall' Muthoni went to fight alongside famous warriors of the forest like Dedan Kimathi Waciuri.
  2. The women in the camps made sure that the family continued intact through all of the while their men were out fighting. They would weed and grow food for family use.
  3. While men were in the forests, Mau Mau women continued to educate their children to be the future leaders of their government. Women would collect money and smuggle the brightest children out of Kenya to study overseas through Sudan, Ethiopia and Egypt.
  4. Many women sought support for Mau Mau internationally. E.g, Mama Sarah Sarai, an ally of Kenyatta’s, when out of the country would get people to write in support of Mau Mau.
  5. Some women offered their property for use by mau mau. In Nairobi, Mama Josephine Muthoni offered her cars to be used for Mau Mau activities. Mama Elizabeth Waruiru’s house in Pangani which became a Mau Mau meeting place.
  6. Women were first class spies and informers. They supplied information to the forest forces.
  7. Women supplied guns, would do anything to get them. Sometimes they killed for them.
  8. Women had primary responsibility for the organization and maintenance of the supply lines. Operating from villages, thousands of women acted as go -betweens and carriers of food and firearms, and generally provided a system of intelligence.
  9. Women composed songs like the Kanyegenuri, to commemorate their deeds, like the bravery of Mary Nyanjiru. Years later the song became the Mau Mau anthem of resistance
  10. They also recruited for Mau Mau fighters.
  11. They officiated at and participated in oathing ceremonies. Some like Waithera allowed themselves to be subjected to unnatural sexual acts for the sake of the movement.
  12. In forest camps, women would serve male leaders as Kabatuni (a small platoon to be commanded by the man), doing minor military duties like cleaning guns as well as seeing to the other needs like meeting his sexual needs.
  13. Some women were co-opted in the political Arena in the mau mau duo-sex councils. For example Muthoni Ngatha - even rose to the senior position of Field Marshal. In June 1953 Wagiri Njoroge was crowned as the Queen of Mau Mau and ruled for 7 months.
  14. Women also contributed the services of their children who served as errand boys and girls and informers.
  15. Women were allowed to flirt with "enemies" to gather vital information, weapons and other resources. For example, in Gakenia's village in Nanyuki, four girls lured four loyalist African soldiers to Kaarage Forest where the soldiers were killed and their rifles taken.
  16. Some women like Wanjiru were appointed judges in Nakuru's Mau Mau Courts which passed sentences on anti-Mau Mau crimes. These illustrated by the emergence of a small number of women who acted as executioners.

Problems Caused by Presence of Women in Forests During Mau Mau Wars

  1. Some women could not withstand the harsh forest conditions of torrential rains and bitter cold and constantly fell sick
  2. Many women could not defend themselves against enemies and were therefore a burden to men.
  3. Women would be extra mouths to feed, but would do very little useful things in return.
  4. Occasionally, women could cause tension and conflict among male guerillas as the men competed for sexual favours from the small number of women.

Constitutional Changes Leading to Independence

African Representation to the Legco.

In 1944, Eliud Mathu, a former teacher at Alliance School, the first African was appointed to the LegCo. KAU’s demand for more representation in 1946 caused the appointment of Benaiah Ohanga as the second African to the LegCo.

By 1948, there were four Africans in the LegCo compared to 11 Europeans, 5 Asians and 2 Arabs.

Various commission reports made significant pointers to the fact that the British government had realized the need to involve Africans in the administration and need to reduce settler influence. For example;

1) The Report of the East African Royal Commission of 1955 proposed;

  • An end of racial segregation.
  • Increased involvement of Africans in the colonial administration
  • Opening of the Kenya Highlands to all races.

2) The Swynnerton Plan of 1954 proposed the consolidation and registration of

African land with a view to having better land management.

3) The report on African wages and the Lidbury Commission on Civil Service

recommended better pay for African workers.

The Lyttelton Constitution

In 1954, the British secretary for colonies visited Kenya in the wake of the Mau Mau Uprising and made the following constitutional proposals;

  1. A multi- racial Council of Ministers to replace the executive council, which would include one African (B.A. Ohanga, minister for community development and African affairs), two Asians and three Europeans. For the first time, Africans were represented with members with executive powers.
  2. Lifting the ban on African political Associations. This was done in 1955 though only Africans were allowed to form local (district –based) political organizations. Tom Mboya formed the Nairobi People’s convention Party while D. Mwanyumba formed the Taita African Democratic Union. John Kebaso formed the Abagusii Association, Argwings Kodhek formed the Kenya National Congress and John Keen the Maasai Front.
  3. Africans were able to take part in elections of 1957. /it proposed multi-racial elections. However, other than race-pegged rules for participation in the 1956/57 elections, voting qualification for Africans were based on income, property and education
  4. Proposed direct representation of Africans in the LEGCO. In march 1957, the African elections to the Legco were held and Tom Mboya(Nairobi), Masinde Muliro( Northern Nyanza), Oginga Odinga(Central Nyanza), Lawrence Ogunda(south Nyanza), Ronald Ngala( Coast ), Daniel Arap Moi( Rift Valley), James Miumi(Ukambani) and Bernard Mate (central)were elected.

The elected Africans formed the African Elected Members Organization (AEMO) with Odinga as chairman and Mboya as secretary.

Demands of AEMO after Formation

  1. They contested the fewer African positions in the LegCo by condemning the Lyttelton constitution. While elected members were 29, nominated members were 30, majority of who were Europeans.
  2. They protested the rigid voter qualification requirements imposed on Africans and demanded that every African of 21 years and above be allowed to vote, regardless of education or income.
  3. They demanded that registration of voters be done on a common roll.
  4. They called for the end of a State of Emergency.

Role played by AEMO in the struggle for independence up to 1963.

  1. They formed pressure groups to demand for greater political rights for Africans. e.g., formation of AEMO.
  2. They formed the core team, which pressurized for independence.
  3. They made known the grievances of Africans in International Fora.
  4. They networked with other African nationalists elsewhere e.g. in Ghana and Nigeria to hasten achievement of independence in Kenya.
  5. They fought for the release of detained nationalists e.g. Kenyatta.
  6. They formed he national political parties e.g. KANU and KADU, which led the country to independence.
  7. They educated and created awareness among the masses about the nationalists struggle.
  8. They took part in the formulation of the independence constitution.

The Lennox-Boyd Constitution

In 1958, Sir Allan Lennox- Boyd, who had succeeded Oliver Lyttelton as secretary State for Colonies visited Kenya and made the following constitutional proposals;

  1. An increase by six LegCo Seats for Africans to bring their total representation to 14 seats.
  2. A special membership in the LegCo, with four members from each race, who were to elected by other members of the LegCo.
  3. An increase of the number of African ministers to two.

AEMO members rejected the Lennox-Boyd proposals saying they still favoured white monopoly in the colony especially the specially elected membership to LegCo. AEMO also called for the unconditional release of Jomo Kenyatta. They even boycotted the Legco from 1958 to 1959 when a new constitutional conference was promised.

Acted of Betrayal became evident among Africans when Musa Amalemba and Wanyutu Waweru accepted the special seats appointment and even Amalemba went ahead to appointed the second African Minister for Housing in 1958.Other developments in 1959 included;

  • The White moderates led by Michael Blundell (who resigned as minister of agriculture) formed the New Party of Kenya (NPK). He was backed by 46 non -African members of the LegCo for his ideas of multi-racialism.
  • The white extremists led by Captain Briggs formed the United Party (UP) demanding for the abolishing of the LegCo and replacing it with regional assemblies. This was aimed at preserving the white highlands as one regional assembly for European benefits.
  • Increased divisions on AEMO between radicals and moderates .Ngala, Moi, Mate, Towett and Nyagah resigned from AEMO to form the Kenya National Party (KNP) advocating multi-racialism. This party was interestingly joined by all Arab and Asian members.
  • The radicals led by Mboya, Odinga and Gikonyo Kiano formed the Kenya Independent Movement (KIM) that was exclusively for African membership. They demanded convening of a full constitutional conference to discuss Kenya’s future and release of Jomo Kenyatta.

The Lancaster House Conferences

The Conferences were called to iron out the differences that arose out of the fact that both radical Europeans and AEMO members opposed multi-racialism.

The First Lancaster House Conference (1960)

The conference was convened by Ian MacLeod, the secretary of state for colonies. it was attended by all members of the LegCo.. The African team was led by Ronald Ngala and Tom Mboya was the secretary.

The conference came up with the following compromise decisions;

  1. The 12 elective seats In the LegCo would remain intact.
  2. There were to 33 open seats in the LegCo, which were to be vied for on a common roll.
  3. Another 20 seats would be reserved – 10 of these for Europeans, 8 for Asians and 2 for Arabs.
  4. The composition of the Council of Ministers was to be altered to incorporate 4 Africans, 3 Europeans and 1 Asian.
  5. The conference authorized the formation of countrywide political parties for Africans.

KANU and KANU were formed.The Lancaster conference however failed to entirely please both Africans and the settlers. Some settlers, finding the new turn events so tough began to sell their property and leave Kenya. Africans though feeling that they had not been given a responsive government, accepted ministerial positions as follows;

  1. Ronald Ngala- Minister for Labour, Social Security and Adult Education.
  2. Julius Gikonyo Kiano- Minister for Commerce and Industry.
  3. Musa Amalemba- Minister for Housing, Common Services, Probation and Approved Schools.
  4. James Nzaui Miumi- Minister for Health and Welfare.

Out of fear of political domination by the big tribes the following new alliances were formed;

  1. The Kalenjin Political Alliance of Taita Towett.
  2. The Coast African Political Union of Ronald Ngala.
  3. The Kenya African People’s Party of Masinde Muliro.

In the 1961 elections KANU won but refused to form government demanding release of Kenyatta. KADU was invited by the governor, Patrick Renson to form a coalition government with Europeans and Asians.

When Kenyatta came on 21st August 1961, Kariuki Njiiri offered his Murang’a seat to Kenyatta to enable him join LegCo.

The second Lancaster conference (1962)

The main aim of this conference, called by the then secretary for colonies, Reginald Maulding was to draft the independence constitution acceptable to the two main parties KADU and KANU. It also aimed at reconciling the differences between the two parties.

KANU delegation was led by Jomo Kenyatta while Ngala led the KADU group.

KANU conceded many KADU grounds to enable success of the negotiations.

Main Provisions of the Independence Constitution of Kenya

  1. The independence constitution provided for a regional/majimbo government with each region having a regional assembly and p resident.
  2. It also provided for a bicameral parliament consisting of the senate and the house of representatives/upper house and lower house.
  3. The constitution stipulated that the Prime Minister was to be head of Government and Queen the Head of State, represented by the Governor General.
  4. The constitution recommended a multiparty system of government and the party with the majority of seats forming the government.
  5. It contained the Bill of Rights, which protected the individual’s rights.

In the elections of 1963, KANU won with 73 seats against KADU’s 31, APP’s 8. Jomo Kenyatta became the first Prime Minister on 1st June 1963.On 12 December, Kenya attained full independence. On 12th December 1964, Kenya became a republic with Kenyatta becoming an executive president.

Join our whatsapp group for latest updates


Tap Here to Download for 50/-

Why download?

  • ✔ To read offline at any time.
  • ✔ To Print at your convenience
  • ✔ Share Easily with Friends / Students

Get on WhatsApp Download as PDF
Subscribe now

access all the content at an affordable rate
Buy any individual paper or notes as a pdf via MPESA
and get it sent to you via WhatsApp


What does our community say about us?

Join our community on:

  • easyelimu app
  • Telegram
  • facebook page
  • twitter page
  • Pinterest